If You Want Lake Camanche Rainbows, You’d Better Invest Some Dough!
Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 7, 2013
Location: Camanche Reservoir,
The Mother Lode region is special, offering a unique mixture of history and natural beauty. This region offers a myriad of opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. From hiking and biking to hunting and fishing. For the angler lakes such as Don Pedro, New Melones, Pardee, Tulloch, Amador, and Camanche represent a seemingly inexhaustible realm of possibilities for targeting trout, bass, land locked salmon, panfish and catfish.
When mentioned in the same breath as these other notable fisheries, Lake Camanche is like the prom queen’s younger sister. You know, she’s sweet and she’s pretty, but all the boys look past her dreaming about her glamorous big sister. The lake offers outstanding action for rainbow trout particularly in the winter and spring months.
Since the lake is situated an easy 24 mile drive east of Stockton, access is quick and easy, but with Lake Pardee located a scant 11 miles down the road a lot of anglers make the choice to drive a little further to explore the clear waters of Pardee when the facility is open to fishing.
Before we delve into the trout fishing opportunities that can be found at Lake Camanche, let’s take a look at the region’s history and learn how the reservoir’s unique gold rush era structure originated.
Camanche is located in Calaveras and Amador counties. The first documented case of Caucasians penetrating this region dates back to 1846 when John Sutter of Sutter’s Fort and Sutter’s Mill fame led a company of men into the area to drop some timber for building a ferry boat. Sutter described the region as being a fantastic mosaic of oaks, pines and grassy clearings in the foothills giving way to evergreen covered ridges broken by grassy meadows and fern studded gullies at higher elevations.
The gold rush term “Mother Lode” refers to a relatively small band of gold encrusted quartz that begins in the El Dorado County foothills and runs south to Amador and Calaveras counties. This band of quartz was not discovered until the spring of 1848, when Captain Charles Webber led a group of prospectors eastward from what is now Stockton in search of gold. Early on they failed to find anything, but once they reached the Mokelumne their luck changed. From that drainage, northward to what is now Placerville they found gold in every east to west tributary.
In the immediate vicinity of the Mokelumne River, the drainage on which Camanche is formed, a series of mines were sunk. With names like the Argonaut, Central Eureka, Black Chasm and Roaring Camp, these mines came to be among the richest in the entire world and served as the catalyst for the formation of towns and the emergence of civilization across the region.
Most of the Mother Lode mines, whether large or small scale operations plunged deep into the earth. The Kennedy Mine was the deepest of the bunch coursing more than 5,900 feet into the earth. Now if you are a miner, what do you do with all the rocks and soil that you dig out of the ground? You pile it up as close to the mouth of the mine as you can right? That’s exactly what the miners did while working along the Mokelumne River.
When Camanche Dam was completed in 1964, those piles ended up under what is now Lake Camanche. Since the lake is relatively shallow, boasting a maximum depth of about 150 feet when at full capacity it offers huge expanses of reefs and rock piles punctuated by standing timber and brush. The low areas between the rock piles act as channels and travel corridors that the lake’s trout, bass and other gamefish use for travel and security.
Lake Camanche is a medium size impoundment in comparison to other foothill reservoirs. When at full capacity the lake holds 417,120 acre feet of water. This translates to 12 square miles of surface area and roughly 53 miles of shoreline. In terms of shape, Camanche consists of a large egg shaped main body punctuated by several islands and two arms.
The Mokelumne Arm is the larger of the two and offers terrain reminiscent of most canyon type reservoirs with rocky shorelines dropping rapidly into deep water. The reservoir’s primary purpose is hydroelectric generation. On average it produces 10.7 megawatts of power annually.Back To Reports